Daphne Dumorier Fullscreen Restaurant Jamaica (1936)


Francis Davey pointed to the open door.

"You can walk inside and go upstairs to bed," he said. "Your uncle will not even see you.

Fasten the door after you, and blow out the candle.

You don't want a fire on your hands.

Good night to you, Mary Yellan.

If you are ever in trouble and need me, I shall be waiting for you at Altarnun."

Then he turned the corner of the house and was gone.

Mary tiptoed into the kitchen and closed and fastened the door.

She could have slammed it had she wished, it would not have roused her uncle.

He had gone to his kingdom of heaven, and the little world was lost to him.

She blew out the light beside him and left him alone in the darkness.

Chapter 8

Joss Merlyn was drunk for five days.

He was insensible most of the time and lay stretched out on a bed in the kitchen that Mary and her aunt had improvised between them.

He slept with his mouth wide open, and the sound of his breathing could be heard from the bedrooms above.

About five in the evening he would wake for half an hour or so, shouting for brandy and sobbing like a child.

His wife went to him at once and soothed him and settled his pillow.

She gave him a little weak brandy-and-water, talking to him gently as she would to a sick child, holding the glass to his lips; and he stared around him with glaring bloodshot eyes, muttering to himself, and shivering like a dog.

Aunt Patience became another woman, showing a calm coolness and a presence of mind that Mary had not believed her capable of possessing.

She gave herself up entirely to this nursing of her husband.

She was obliged to do everything for him, and Mary watched her change his blankets and his linen with a sick feeling of disgust in her own heart, for she could not have borne to go near him.

Aunt Patience took it as a matter of course, and the oaths and screams with which he greeted her did not appear to frighten her.

These were the only times when she had the controlling of him, and he would let her sponge his forehead with a towel and hot water without a protest. Then she would tuck the fresh blanket under him, and smooth his mat of hair, and in a few minutes he would be asleep again, his face purple and his mouth wide open, with his tongue protruding, snoring like a bull.

It was impossible to live in the kitchen, and Mary and her aunt turned the little disused parlour into a dwelling room for themselves.

For the first time Aunt Patience became something of a companion.

She chatted happily of the old days in Helford, when she and Mary's mother had been girls together; she moved swiftly and lightly about the house, and sometimes Mary would hear her humming snatches of old hymns as she passed backwards and forwards to the kitchen.

It seemed that every two months or so Joss Merlyn would have these bouts of drinking.

The times used to be further apart, but now they were becoming more frequent, and Aunt Patience was never quite certain when they would occur.

This present one had been caused by the visit of Squire Bassat to the inn — the landlord had been very angry and upset, she told Mary — and when he came back from the moors at six in the evening he went straight to the bar.

She knew then what would happen.

Aunt Patience accepted without question her niece's explanation of losing herself on the moors.

She told her she must beware of the bogs and left it at that.

Mary was greatly relieved. She did not want to give details of the adventure, and she was determined to say nothing of her meeting with the vicar of Altarnun.

Meanwhile Joss Merlyn lay in his stupor in the kitchen, and the two women spent five comparatively peaceful days.

The weather was cold and grey and did not tempt Mary from the house, but on the fifth morning the wind dropped and the sun shone, and, in spite of the adventure that had befallen her only a few days before, Mary decided to brave the moors again.

The landlord was awake at nine and began to shout at the top of his voice, and what with the noise he made, and the smell from the kitchen that now pervaded the rest of the house, and the sight of Aunt Patience bustling downstairs with clean blankets over her arm, Mary was seized with a rush of disgust and a loathing for the whole business.

Feeling very ashamed of herself, she slipped out of the house, rolling a crust of bread in a handkerchief, and crossed the highroad to the moors.

This time she made for the East Moor, striking out towards Kilmar, and with the whole day in front of her there was no fear of being lost.

She kept thinking about Francis Davey, her strange vicar of Altarnun, and she realised how little he had told her of himself, while he had from her a life history in an evening.

She thought what an odd figure he must have looked, painting his picture beside the waters of Dozmary, hatless, perhaps, his halo of white hair standing up around his head; and there would be gulls flying inland from the sea, skimming the surface of the lake.

He would look like Elijah in the wilderness.

She wondered what had called him to priesthood, and whether he was loved by the people of Altarnun.

It was nearly Christmas now, and home at Helford people would be decorating with holly and evergreen and mistletoe.

There would be a great baking of pastry and cakes, and a fattening of turkeys and geese.

The little parson, wearing a festive air, would beam upon his world, and on Christmas Eve he would ride up after tea to drink sloe gin at Trelowarren.

Did Francis Davey decorate his church with holly and call down a blessing upon the people?

One thing was certain: there would be little gaiety at Jamaica Inn.

Mary had walked for an hour or more before she stopped short in her tracks, her further progress barred by a stream that divided and ran in opposite directions.

The stream lay in a valley between the hills and was encircled by marshes.

The country was not unknown to her, and, looking on beyond the smooth green face of the tor ahead, she saw the great split hand of Kilmar pointing his fingers to the sky.